(CN) – The Obama administration on Monday continued its push to protect land from energy and mineral development in ecologically sensitive areas.
The U.S. Department of Interior on Monday announced a two-year moratorium of new mining claims on land near Yellowstone National Park. Last week the administration announced it was canceling energy leases near Glacier National Park
“There are good places to mine for gold, but the doorstep of Yellowstone National Park is not one of them,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a statement. She made the announcement in Pray, Montana, along with Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, Interior Under Secretary of Agriculture Robert Bonnie and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
“As we celebrate 100 years of the National Park Service, today’s action helps ensure that Yellowstone’s watershed, wildlife and the tourism-based economy of local communities will not be threatened by the impacts of mineral development,” Jewell said.
Monday’s announcement does not stop current mining operations on valid claims around Yellowstone, the department said.
However, new mining claims are prohibited on about 30,000 acres of U.S. Forest Service land near the park’s northern entrance. The suspension of new mining claims is in effect for two years while the Departments of Interior and Agriculture evaluate whether to withdraw this land from new mining claims for an additional 20 years, the Department of the Interior said.
“As trustees of our national parks and forests, taking a timeout to balance the benefits of our natural resources and recreation-based local economies against mineral extraction is a commitment we owe the American taxpayer,” U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said in a statement. “This need is much more pressing where the potential risks to our extraordinary natural resources and the health of our rural towns are significant.”
The Department of the Interior said the proposed mining suspension protects wildlife corridors around Yellowstone, the nation’s first national park.
During the two-year suspension of accepting new mining claims, the federal government will conduct an environmental analysis to determine if the lands should be withdrawn for an additional 20 years, according to the Department of the Interior. The environmental analysis will include participation from the public, Native American tribes, environmental groups, industry, state and local governments, as well as other stakeholders, according to the department.
The 90-day public comment period on the proposed withdrawal ends Feb. 20, 2017.
The Custer-Gallatin National Forest will have a public meeting for the mining-suspension proposal on Jan. 18, 2017. The meeting is from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Shane Center in Livingston, Montana. Written comments about the proposed mineral withdrawal may be submitted to the supervisor’s office of the Custer-Gallatin National Forest, 10 East Babcock Ave., Bozeman, Montana, 59715.